Mom routinely locked child with autism, infant in car so she could work out

Posted at 7:27 PM, Aug 31, 2016

NANTICOKE, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania mother faces a slew of charges after admitting to leaving her children locked in a car outside the gym on multiple occasions, according to prosecutors.

Molly O'Neill and Daniel Johnson, of Mountain Top, were were arraigned on child endangerment charges Wednesday after an incident over the summer launched a police investigation.

Police responding to a 911 call June 29 found two children locked inside a car in the parking lot of Nanticoke Fitness, according to WPMT.

Police said O'Neill had been running on the treadmill for about 20 minutes when they found her 11-year-old son with Asperger's syndrome in the car, along with his 5-month-old baby sister.

When asked where their parents were, one of the children told officers their mother was in the gym, police said.

The officer used a member's pass to access the gym and found Molly O'Neill, the mother, inside. O'Neill allegedly told police she had "rigged" the car so that if the doors were opened an alarm would go off.

Police reported the incident to child services and began investigating.

"In this case, the child was buckled in a seat. It only takes a second for something to occur," said Nanticoke Police Capt. Bob Lehman. "We encourage, as does society today, don't leave your child, especially a 5-month-old unattended."

Investigators say they learned O'Neill had left her children unattended in the gym parking lot about a dozen times before, for up to two hours at a time.

She has now been charged with 21 counts of child endangerment.

Her partner, Daniel Johnson, is charged with one count of child endangerment because police say that on at least one occasion he also left the children in the car while at the gym.

"At this point, we are taking every precaution to make sure those children are safe and they are placed where they are going to remain safe," said Capt. Lehman.

The couple was allowed to walk out of court on $25,000 unsecured bail.

The judge also allowed the children to remain with the couple while child protective services does its own evaluation and investigation.